#Feature: Celebrating 25 years of Carole Matthews @carolematthews @littlebookcafe @millieseaward #review #anniversary #25years #ACottagebytheSea

By | May 26, 2022

I was really delighted to receive a message from Millie Seaward at Little Brown asking if I’d like to join the celebrations for Carole Matthews’ 25 year anniversary – of course I would! I’ve been a massive fan of her writing since I picked up Let’s Meet on Platform 8 all those years ago, and her many books (I think it’s 34 now?) have brought me so much pleasure over the years.

I can still remember how starstruck I was when I finally got to meet her for the first time, in Oswestry back in 2014, when she gave a wonderful talk and signed my treasured copy of A Place To Call Home ( I wrote a blog post about it – together with a review of the book – and you’ll find that post here). I did lose sight of her books for a little while – she was doing great without me! –  but it was an absolute joy to rediscover how much I still loved her when I read Happiness for Beginners a couple of years ago (you’ll find my review here). And the sequel, Christmas for Beginners? I thought that was even better, and you can read my review here

Her publishers are celebrating the anniversary by reissuing A Cottage by the Sea, first released in 2013 – I see the kindle version is only 99p at the moment (do check before you click!), and if you’re an Audible subscriber you can add the narration for just £3.99. That book was always a personal favourite, and I thought it might be nice to re-share my 2013 review (when I was a very new blogger…) as my contribution to the party. I see I read it on one of my more exotic holidays…

I remember the days when I used to take half a suitcase of books on holiday – just in case I ran out – but these days it’s so much easier to just load up your Kindle with some favourite authors and know you’re ok for a fortnight.  I read this book under such difficult circumstances – on holiday in Goa, 104 degrees and 85% humidity, struggling to pick it up between massages, manicures and cocktails – but it really was a quite perfect holiday read.


Essentially this is the story of three couples – the women all friends for many years – getting together for a holiday at a remote Pembrokeshire cottage.  First, there’s Grace and Harry – he spends more time on Twitter and Facebook with a glass in his hand than he does spending time with his wife, and their marriage is in a poor state of repair.  Then there’s Ella and Art – she’s the homemaker, he’s a free spirit, a band manager who spends long periods on the road and is reluctant to be tied down. And finally there’s Flick – predatory hunter of married men, who surprises everyone by turning up with Noah, and amazes everyone by declaring her intention to marry him.


Grace is the narrator, a strong character in need of some joy in her life. She is immediately attracted to Noah, but has a strong sense of right and wrong, and the way she should behave.


The week at Cwtch Cottage is filled with drama, complicated relationships and divided loyalties.  The Pembrokeshire backdrop is stunning, wonderfully described as the couples walk, go “coasteering” and birdwatch on the islands.  This is a wonderful story about female friendship, warm and enriching but severely tested. There are some serious moments, but Carole Matthews’ wonderful humour shines through – an emotional rollercoaster, but a thoroughly enjoyable one.

Happy anniversary Carole – here’s to the next 25 years!